Octavio Flores Quintero had his dream ride in mind when he signed up for TrainerRoad. He used TrainerRoad to raise his FTP by 70 watts and prepare for Vallartazo—an adventurous ride from the high mountains of Western Mexico to the coastal paradise of Puerto Vallarta.
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Octavio has been cycling most of his life in one way or another. He became more serious about the sport about ten years ago when he purchased a full-suspension mountain bike. Eventually, Octavio bought a road bike because he’d heard that it would help build his fitness. It allowed him the opportunity to join another cycling group and ride more.
During this time, the cycling culture in Mexico was steadily growing. Not only were more people riding, but so were many of Octavio’s friends. In Guadalajara, where he lived, groups built new trails and promoted new races. Now, cycling events happen almost every weekend.
Vallartazo is a rugged, backcountry mountain bike event in central-western Mexico that’s been around for many years. It started as a ride from Guadalajara to Puerta Vallarta but recently has grown to include various routes. Now, the most popular place to start is in the mountain town of Mascota, where the ride descends to the beach in Puerta Vallarta.
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Three years ago, Octavio began the event but failed to finish due to a mid-race crash that yielded torn ligaments in his knee. For 2020, he was determined to finish and chose the Cabro route. It was 53 miles over raw and rugged terrain with almost 6,200 feet of climbing. With a challenging ride ahead, Octavio knew he needed to do something different to be successful.
Training for Vallartazo Cabro
Octavio got a trainer and began to search for a training app that would help improve his fitness. Around the same time, he started listening to the Ask A Cycling Coach Podcast, which helped him see the technical and structured side of cycling training. After trying several apps, he chose TrainerRoad because he liked the goal specific plans.
Six months before his event, Octavio began a Gravity plan with an FTP of 135w. The Gravity plan focuses on anaerobic power and repeatability—something needed for the short, steep climbs on this route.
Challenges in Training
New to structured training, the intervals were a bit of a shock for Octavio, who thought it would be easy. He adapted quickly, and soon the workouts became much more manageable. However, the training process was not without its challenges.
Because he’d never paid much attention to it, getting enough quality sleep was difficult. Over time, Octavio focused on setting an earlier bedtime and improving the rest he was getting. Workouts that included short, high-power intervals were also a challenge. Tips from the workout text and the podcast about breathing and efficient movement kept him motivated and engaged.
As he progressed with his training, Octavio could tell his hard work was paying off when he rode outside on the trail. Not only was he going faster, but he could ride up trails that he couldn’t before. The longer rides became more fun because there were no longer as exhausting.
Just before his goal event, Octavio raised his FTP to 203w—a gain of 70 watts!
A Dream Ride
Heading into the Vallartazo Cabro, Octavio felt confident in his fitness and equipment. His small group arrived in Mascota a day before the event to get settled. While some people choose to ride the course in a day, Octavio’s group decided to split it up into two days. Fortunately, the ride was supported, so he didn’t have to carry his camping gear on the ride. Still, the hot weather and trail conditions provided little relief.
Octavio kept his pace conservative on the first day because he feared blowing up or, worse, crashing. The trail was sandy and complex, with numerous hairpin switchbacks. The pace was well within his limits. So much so, by the time he reached the campground, Octavio couldn’t believe it was time to stop because he felt so good.
The second day of riding included a lot of short, steep climbs and was constantly up and down. Feeling strong, he picked up his pace heading into Peurto Vallarta. Looking back on the incredible event and what he would change, Octavio believes that he would train the same but that he was too conservative on the first day. He could have gone a little faster but was too worried about being able to finish. He said, “I know I can do it and don’t have to hold back. Just let the bike go.”
Equipment and Nutrition for Vallartazo
Even though Octavio had support on the ride, he still had to carry nutrition, water, and all the typical things you need on a long bike ride. The support team took care of the main meals by grilling steaks and hamburgers. They also provided extra water and fruit.
On the bike, Octavio carried a hydration pack filled with water and an electrolyte mix. He had packets of mango and banana baby food for nutrition and would eat a small bar of raw cacao and peanuts. Between main meals and on-the-bike nutrition, he had his nutrition dialed for hard work on the bike.
Octavio rode his Santa Cruz Hightower at this event. For anyone interested in completing an event like this Octavio recommends a well-maintained bike that can handle demanding and rough terrain—especially the front suspension. New tires are a good idea too, and it never hurts to carry a first aid kit.
Next year, Octavio is planning on riding his first century and competing in an Olympic triathlon. He’d like to do an off-road Xterra Triathlon eventually too, but for now, his sights are set on an Olympic-distance triathlon.
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